Before we consider today's passage, we must note that in Amos 2, the prophet does not list only injustice and the oppression of the poor as the sins of Israel. Verse 8 mentions illicit sexual activity near the shrines devoted to Yahweh in the northern kingdom of Israel: "They lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge." Moreover, verse 7 accuses Israel of looking the other way when "a man and his father go in to the same girl." This is a reference to sexual sin of some kind, most likely incestuous relationships between fathers and their daughters-in-law. Leviticus 18:6–18 forbids all kinds of incest, including the relationship that Amos mentions (v. 15).
The reference in Amos 2:9–10 to the Amorites' destruction confirms that the prophet had incest in mind when he spoke. Scripture often uses Amorites for all the people Israel drove out of the Promised Land (Josh. 24:18), and Leviticus 18 reveals that flagrant sexual sin prompted God to remove the Amorites from Canaan (vv. 24–25). Moreover, the ancient Israelites were also warned that the Promised Land would "vomit" them out as well if they disobeyed impenitently God's sexual ethic (vv. 26–30). Amos' message is clear: the Lord drove the Amorites out of Canaan because of incest, and He would cast out Israel as well if it refused to repent. Let us be warned today that God will not long tolerate nations, professing Christians, and churches that approve of sexual sin.
Hope exists, however, even in this judgment oracle. Though Israel deserved punishment for its sins, it still maintained a relationship to the Lord not shared by pagan nations. God reminded His people that "you only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" (Amos 3:2). Israel's punishment was a consequence of its being known by the Lord; suffering covenant curses for the nation was disciplinary, intended to purify the covenant community (Deut. 8:5; 1 Cor. 11:32). It was an act of grace that confirmed the righteousness of those who remained faithful to Yahweh and gave a wake-up call to authentic believers who were indulging in sin.
God's grace is also seen in His warnings through Amos and the other prophets. The Lord would not bring judgment and discipline to His people without warning, for He "does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7–8). His mercy moved Him to warn His people that they might repent and avert disaster.
The imagery of Amos 3:3–8 indicates that Amos had a message that was so true and sure that he had to proclaim it. He saw disaster coming and had to implore Israel to repent that the Lord's wrath might be turned away. God, of course, knew how Israel would respond to this message, but this does not take away its force. The Lord also knows how we will respond when confronted with our sin, but that does not eliminate the need for us to repent when we hear His Word.